The B2B Marketer’s Guide to Storytelling

b2b storytellingAs mentioned in a previous blog post, storytelling has recently become a viable and effective B2B marketing tactic. In fact, 41% of marketers cite storytelling as a top priority for their marketing teams in 2016 (source).

Though storytelling has become commonplace in the B2C realm, B2B marketers still struggle to find a place for the tactic within their campaigns—and for good reason. How can you tell a story within an ebook, a datasheet, or whitepaper?

We admit it’s difficult. But, when done correctly, stories have an innate ability to form deeper, more meaningful connections with prospects. Continue reading to learn how you can generate more success with your marketing campaigns using the age-old art of storytelling.

Who?

The first step to telling a great story is identifying your audience. As with all marketing communications, you need to be sure your message is going to resonate with your best buyers. If you haven’t created buyer personas or established an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), start there.

When crafting your story, you should constantly be thinking of the reader. Ask yourself:

  • Will my audience relate to this?
  • What does my audience want to know?
  • What do I want my audience to know?
  • What will this make my audience feel?
  • What will this make my audience think?
  • Will my audience care about this?
  • What do I want my best buyers to take away from this?
  • What does this say about my brand?

What?

Often, the most difficult part of the storytelling process is deciding what story to tell. A word of advice, don’t over think it. Stories don’t need to be complicated to be effective—start by telling the story of your brand, a customer’s success, or how a product came to be.

Be sure your narrative includes one or more of the basic components of a story:

  • Plot: The sequence of events within a story.
  • Setting: The context in which a story takes place.
  • Characterization: A protagonist and antagonist.
  • Atmosphere: A tone, voice, and pacing to engage the emotions of the reader.
  • Point of View: A consistent voice in which the story is told – typically first or third person view.
  • Conflict: A problem that your protagonist will work to resolve.

Once you’ve established the basics, make sure your narrative follows these best practices:

Take the focus off your product or service.

The first goal of storytelling should be to engage the reader and familiarize them with your brand. The secondary goal should be to drive sales and revenue. So although it might be tempting, don’t lead with a sales pitch. Above all else, remember that your product or service won’t always the hero of your story—and that’s okay!

Be authentic.

Your stories should build trust with your readers. Stick with what you know and don’t be afraid to infuse your stories with your company values. Try not to be too formal with your writing; tell your story conversationally, as if you’re talking to a friend. Be sure to use language and imagery that your audience is familiar with.

Get straight to the point.

The more concise your story is, the more it will resonate with your audience. Although you’re trying to engage the reader, most B2B professionals won’t have time to read pages and pages. Avoid lengthy details or descriptions that don’t contribute to the overall goal of your story.

When and Where?

B2B communications often take on a professional, business-like tone. That leaves the question, when is it appropriate to use storytelling within your B2B content strategy? The answer to this question will vary from company to company, but typically, characteristics of storytelling can be woven into almost all marketing content. It’s all about how you spin it.

Working on an infographic? Use the statistics to tell a story. Working on a brand new website? Use parallax scrolling and other visual cues to tell a narrative. The goal of storytelling in the B2B space is to turn otherwise dry, often boring content into an experience.

Check out examples of B2B storytelling below.

Why?

As we’ve already established, storytelling is an effective way to connect with customers and prospects, but it also helps convey your brand personality and positions your company as an industry leader. In case you’re not convinced, here are some statistics to back these claims.

  • 92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story (source).
  • 64% of people cite shared values as the main reason they have a relationship with a brand (source).
  • B2B brands that connect with their buyers on an emotional level earn twice the impact over marketers who are still trying to sell business or functional value (source).
  • B2B customers are more than 2x as likely to consider a brand that shows personal value over business value, because they perceive little difference in the business value between suppliers (source).

Storytelling in Practice:

Still not sure? Here are a few examples of how ZoomInfo has leveraged the power storytelling within our marketing collateral.

Infographics:

Our recent infographic used the story of a medical diagnosis—something most humans can relate to—to explain the effect of B2B data on cold calls. We walk through the story of receiving a diagnosis, discovering the cause of illness, experiencing symptoms, and finding a cure.
cold call infographic

Tradeshows:

Recently, we adopted imagery from Where’s Waldo—a well-known narrative—to promote our products and services at trade shows. We compared the process of finding Waldo to finding a company’s best buyers.

tradeshow graphic
Testimonials:
We’ve woven customer testimonials throughout our website and position them as growth stories—stories in which our customers use our products to expand their own businesses. See the example below:

testimonial graphic
For more information about fueling your B2B sales and marketing campaigns, contact ZoomInfo today

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